Unnormal Normalcy

Just News and Ramblings From Your Average Author

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Below is the story that I wrote for the YA LGBT Books Group Valentine’s Day challenge on Goodreads. The challenge was called “Hell & Love Hearts” and the goal was to write about demons and such, and love. Enjoy!

Kris Hunter looked up at the cracked and overgrown facade of the small two-story house in front of him. He’d heard rumors of this house, this supposed portal to hell. The people of the nearest town feared it – none of them would even drive him out to the place, just utter directions and beg God for forgiveness afterward. Kris had been forced to walk the ten miles, glad that he had worn sneakers and that everything he had brought with him was in a convenient backpack.

An elderly woman opened the front door as soon as he set foot in the overgrown driveway. She hobbled out onto the dilapidated porch and down the rickety steps, stopping on the bottom one. “What can I do for you, lad?” she called, voice wavering a bit.

Kris walked closer and looked up at her. “I’d like to see if this house is really haunted,” he stated plainly.

“Cursed is more like it,” the woman replied, wrapping her tattered sweater closer around her frail body.

“I have been very interested in curses, ghosts, and demons since I was a child,” he explained. “Now that I’m on my own, I travel the country to investigate places that are supposedly haunted or cursed. Would you mind if I visited for a few days?”

She looked around the weed-infested, overgrown lawn and demanded, “Where’s your camera crew? You lot always work for television.”

Kris shook his blond head. “I don’t, ma’am. It’s just me. One day I’m going to write a book, but for now I just enjoy the experiences.”

No need to add that he was no longer welcome at home and that spending nights in haunted houses was the only high he could get out of life. There was nothing more intense, he had decided.

“Well, lad, no one who comes into this house ever leaves,” she declared, gazing back at the house behind her. “Alive, that is.”

He shrugged. “I’ve heard that about a lot of places I’ve visited.”

She smiled, and it was quite sinister for an old woman. “If you’re so set on finding out, you’re welcome to stay. You can have the attic. It’s a cozy little apartment.”

He smiled. “Thank you. I won’t stay more than two nights.”

“We’ll see about that,” she replied as she led him into the old building.

Kris assumed she was joking.

The stairs to the second floor were treacherous, and the apartment that was his was no better. The window was cracked and a threadbare couch was the only place to sleep – there was no bed, only some scraps of fabric on a metal box spring in what was clearly supposed to be a bedroom at one end of the attic. At the other end was a door that was locked. Kris decided not to offend his hostess by trying to get it open.

There was a TV in the middle of the main room, an old-fashioned thing that showed nothing but static. The only things that seemed new were the blanket and pillow on the couch. Tired from his walk, Kris lay down on the couch and let himself go to sleep early. No doubt, creaks from the ancient house shifting in the slightest of breezes would wake him later.

 _____

But it was something else that woke him a few hours later. He could sense someone watching him, and, expecting to find the woman who owned the house, he sat up.

Someone was standing directly across the room from him, and it wasn’t the old woman.

It was a man.

The full moon outside the window showed his features clearly; sharp angles of his face, thin black eyebrows, long black hair, black and red robes…

Red eyes.

Handsome. Terrifying.

Kris was too shocked to move. Before he could rationalize what he was seeing, the strange man spoke.

“My name is Mikolai,” his voice was soft, and it added more terror to his presence. “This is my domain. Many have come before you, and likely many more will come after. You will either set me free, or you will die. Likely, you will die.”

Was someone trying to mess with him? If they were, it was one elaborate hoax that they’d have to keep up with. No, this had to be real. It was happening.

“My name is Kris,” he offered, hesitantly.

Mikolai crossed his arms and raised one perfect brow. “I see you’re a talker. Go on, then. Ask all your questions. Might as well get it all out in the open. I tire of being a mystery to everyone.”

Kris swallowed. “Okay, then. What are you?”

“There is no word in your language for what I am. I am the child of a man with a demon soul and a mortal woman. I was born in this house twenty-five years ago. I am trapped here until I am set free to be a human, or I am forced to be a full demon.”

“How can you be set free?” Kris questioned, curious. If it meant his own life, surely he could figure out a way to help that no one else had.

“The same way all curses are broken,” Mikolai answered without emotion. “A human’s true love will make me human. If I do not find love, killing all those who become trapped here will slowly bring my demonic powers to a greater strength, until I must live permanently in the demon world. But the woman who loves me will be forced to die as my son is born, and my son will become what I am now.”

So he probably couldn’t help. After all, love wasn’t something to be forced. “What about the woman downstairs? Is she your grandmother or something?”

Mikolai laughed, and it didn’t sound evil at all. “She’s not real. That was me. I come up with disguises when I’m bored here. I cannot leave this house. Now you can’t, either.”

“So, I can’t eat?” Kris demanded.

The demon-man cocked his head to the side. “Do you feel hunger?”

Surprised, Kris shook his head. “No…”

“Your body’s functions are halted for a time here. It will take weeks before you feel thirst, and there is water here, though it isn’t the best. It won’t kill you, but you’ll hate it. You’ll find you only need to relieve yourself once a day. It will be months before you feel hunger. When you begin to starve, I will have to kill you.”

“So, you’re not giving me any chance?”

Mikolai started walking toward the locked door. “If that were the case, you’d be dead already. It is more that I give myself very little chance.”

Whatever that meant, Kris had no idea. He watched Mikolai vanish into the other room and shut the door.

 _____

It was just after dawn when he was startled awake again, once more by Mikolai’s presence. The strange man was sitting on the floor in front of Kris, staring at him with his eery red eyes. Kris couldn’t help but wonder if there was going to be some torturous activity in the near future. It didn’t seem likely that this demonic being was going to just let him live peacefully in his house until the inevitable killing took place.

“What brought you here?” Mikolai asked.

Kris was surprised by the simple question. “I told you, I like visiting haunted places. I like finding out what stories are true and what ones aren’t.”

His host tilted his head thoughtfully. “But why? Don’t you have a home of your own?”

Kris shrugged. “Not really. My parents don’t want much to do with me. The only excitement I get from life is discovering new haunted places.”

Did Mikolai seem suddenly sad?

“Well, you have found your last adventure,” he said quietly, then stood up. He didn’t look nearly as terrifying in the daylight, but there was still something decidedly unhuman about him as he moved to the cracked window. “My demon blood demands that I travel to the demon realm for some time every day. While I’m gone the house is yours. Just don’t enter my personal room.”

Kris nodded, knowing exactly what room he meant.

Mikolai returned the nod, and with a sound like the screech of metal, he was gone.

 _____

During these times when he was alone, Kris wandered the tiny, ramshackle house. He found nothing to even suggest that any other human had been in the house, just a lot of dirt and dust. The strangest part was the obvious lack of animal activity; there were no rat or mouse droppings, no bats roosting in the attic rafters, not even a single spider or cockroach. It was as if everything was afraid to be near the half-demon living here. Everything but the weeds.

Mikolai always returned just before dusk, and Kris wasn’t sure why he liked having the being around. It wasn’t as though they spent much time socializing. Mikolai always asked him if he’d done anything interesting, and Kris always shrugged and gave a vague answer. It was obvious that Mikolai was trying to be polite, since he surely knew that there was nothing for a cooped up human to do in that tiny house. Kris had tried to leave once, and had found it physically impossible to leave the porch steps. He was a prisoner, and Mikolai knew that.

After those strange moments of conversation, Mikolai would vanish into his room, and would remain completely silent until morning. Kris wished he knew what his host did in that room, what he did in the demon realm, how he felt about trapping humans – he wanted to know so much more. He just didn’t know what he could ask.

Finally, with the knowledge that Mikolai was going to kill him no matter what he did in the end, Kris broke his host’s only rule and slipped into Mikolai’s room when he was alone. At first he expected a horrible demonic lair, but that wasn’t what he found. Had Mikolai set up an illusion, and left the door unlocked to lure him in? Had the door even been locked since the night Kris had arrived? Would Mikolai know he was here, even in the other realm?

It didn’t matter. Kris needed to know more about his host. Immediately, he began looking around the room. It was much more than Kris had expected. There was king-sized bed with blood-red sheets, a closet with no door but what appeared to be a large number of red and black robes, and a large wooden table covered in partially-burned candles.

Kris noticed something else on the table; a black leather book with a black ribbon marking a page. Beside it was a quill and a bottle of red ink – at least, he chose to think it was ink and not blood. Was it some sort of journal?

“He’ll kill me regardless,” Kris murmured, gently opening to the bookmarked page. What he read surprised him.

#39 – He’s gorgeous. I’m going to hate killing him, I know it. If only I knew… but I don’t know how to ask. I’m tiring of this. At least he didn’t force me to kill him right away like the rest of the men have. The women always think they can make me fall in love, the men never want to try. If only…

It seemed like suddenly there really was hope for Kris’ survival. Excited, he turned back an entry.

#38 – She’s far too old. And a woman. Why can’t I find someone I can actually love? Why can’t there be a man, one who will actually try?

A floorboard creaked outside. Mikolai was back already? Kris quickly shut the journal and moved across the room, his heart pounding. Mikolai marched in, slamming the half-open door hard against the wall with a massive bang. He was beyond terrifying. His red eyes were slits, his fingers ended in claws, and he suddenly had fangs.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded, voice edged in pure rage.

He didn’t give Kris time to answer, though. Instead, he grabbed Kris by the shoulder and threw him from the room. Kris stumbled madly across the main room, coming to rest against the couch. His shoulder hurt, and when he touched it, his hand came away bloody.

There was no time to think about it before Mikolai came barreling at him, pulling him from the couch and slamming him against the wall.

“What did you read?” the demon – that was the only way to see him with all of his rage transforming his features – demanded.

When Kris didn’t answer, Mikolai slammed him against the wall again. He was holding his prisoner by the arms, and Kris felt – and heard – a sickening crunch as the bones in his left forearm snapped under the power of the demon holding him. He let out a scream that should have been heard for miles as his vision became spotted. Just before he blacked out he thought he saw Mikolai’s face change from demon to human like a switch had been flipped inside him.

 _____

Kris was somewhat surprised to regain consciousness, since he was sure Mikolai had been ready to kill him. He was even more surprised when he finally realized where he was.

He was in Mikolai’s room. In his bed.

Looking around the room in confusion, Kris noted the burning candles and the thick scent of incense. Mikolai was sitting on the floor in the far corner of the room, and seemed to be meditating. Demons meditated?

While Kris waited for his host to finish so he could ask what was going on, Kris noticed that his broken arm was splinted and bandaged, and that he felt very little pain. Had Mikolai healed him?

When Mikolai finished meditating he came to stand beside the bed, his face unreadable.

“I’m sorry for coming in here,” Kris said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted to know more about you.”

“Anything you want to know I would have told you,” Mikolai replied. “I have no secrets to keep from those who end up here.”

Kris looked away. “I’m sorry, again.”

“I’m sorry for breaking your arm,” Mikolai stated. “That was my demon side, which shows itself when I get angry. When I realized what I had done, I did my best to heal you. The incense helps to ease the pain.”

“Thank you.”

Mikolai sighed. “May I sit with you?”

Kris thought it was strange for the bed’s owner to be asking permission to sit on it, but Kris nodded and sat up awkwardly, trying not to jolt his arm much. Mikolai settled down beside him and picked at his dark robe.

“So…” Kris ventured when the silence began to feel awkward, “how do you find out whether or not someone can set you free?”

Mikolai avoided his eyes. “The transformation can only happen during physical union with that person, if the love is there.”

Kris was pretty sure he knew what that meant.

“It’s always frustrating and pointless,” Mikolai added with a sigh. “When I get frustrated I kill things.”

Kris could hardly believe what he was thinking. Maybe the incense was getting to him. “I’m going to die anyway, right? Might as well get it over with.”

Mikolai glanced at him, one perfect brow raised in surprise. “Are you suggesting –”

Kris cut off his words with a kiss, but Mikolai didn’t hesitate. It was startling for Kris to learn that he was wrong with two of the assumptions he’d had about his host; Mikolai did not actually have fangs or a forked tongue. Mikolai was also gentle with Kris’ injured arm – completely undemonlike.

At one point, when theirs kisses paused, Kris looked at Mikolai’s naked body above him and had to ask, “Do you normally glow?”

Mikolai glanced at himself and shook his head. “My skin is on fire,” he breathed.

When the transformation finally happened, it involved a blinding light and demonic scream that shook the house and blew the roof away. Mikolai blacked out and almost fell off the bed before Kris caught him with his good arm. Struggling to hold him, Kris gently lowered his lover to the floor, where Mikolai slowly came back to himself.

Kris noticed the changes immediately; many of the sharp angles of Mikolai’s face had softened and his eyes, when he opened them, were deep brown, not red. After a moment of looking at himself in wonder, Mikolai climbed back up with Kris, laughing and crying. He held on to Kris tightly, crying against his chest. Kris held him, grinning.

“I finally found you,” Mikolai declared, looking up into Kris’ eyes. “I love you.”

Kris smiled. “I love you, too.” Then he added, “Does this mean we can leave the house? I’m freaking hungry.”

Mikolai grinned. “Yes. Show me the wonders of the human world.”

Kris was only too happy to.

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February 14, 2012 - Posted by | Short Story Saturday

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